Activision Blizzard has named Pete Vlastelica its new commissioner for the Overwatch League. The appointment runs parallel to a similar move in the Call of Duty esports arena that sees Johanna Faries heading up that unit.
The sudden departure of Nate Nanzer in May necessitated the move. Nanzer, who was the inaugural commissioner for Overwatch League, will have his hands full at Epic Games where he now works on the Fortnite esports scene.
Vlastelica got his start as an entrepreneur who built a successful sports media startup and eventually sold it to Fox Sports. Fox kept him on board as its vice president of digital to explore new areas for growth, and esports quickly became one of his main points of interest.
From there, Blizzard recruited Vlastelica to become the president and CEO of the spinoff entity known as the Activision Blizzard Esports League. This unit oversees all of Blizzard and Activision’s esports efforts, including Overwatch, Call of Duty, Heroes of the Storm, and more.
Vlastelica will still serve in his chief overseer role. His double duty as Overwatch League’s commissioner is more about business than passion.
“Over the years I have developed close relationships with our owners and have gotten familiar with the product,” Vlastelica said in response to a question about his role. “When the commissioner role opened up, we thought it was important to install someone into that position who had a broad view of the challenges and opportunities the league is facing, as well as the right relationships to move things forward quickly. It turns out that was me.”
In an interview published on the Overwatch League website, Vlastelica talks about maintaining forward momentum and plans for future growth.
The league is arguably the most ambitious in all of esports in terms of its structure and presentation. Teams in Overwatch League are more akin to traditional sports organizations, encouraging allegiances among fans to teams based in individual cities.
The league also has a host of challenges facing it in heading towards 2020, including declining viewership, a controversial meta that has proven difficult to disrupt, and uncertain plans for many of its teams to begin competing in their own home arenas.
Activision Blizzard will continue to tweak the formula as it continues to marry the best of traditional and digital sporting. The expansion of home market play officially begins in the 2020 season.